Searching For a Cause
New locally based search engine company lets you point-and-click your way to a brighter tomorrow
A search for "beer pong" on CatchTomorrow.com will bring up a link to a site where pong fanatics can order custom vinyl table coverings for their next frat party with the click of a mouse. But if their fruitful search leaves them feeling thirsty and they decide to click on the ad inviting them to "brew up the überbeer," they might just help the Phi Kappa Phis of tomorrow get a better education.
That's because CatchTomorrow.com is a nonprofit search engine whose proceeds go directly to the U.S. school district of the searcher's choosing. Every time a user clicks on an ad on the sidebar or at the top of the search page, money for schools is generated.
Catch Tomorrow is the beta site for its parent company, Santa Fe-based SearchEngineCorp.com, which works with nonprofit and for-profit entities to develop moneymaking search engines. The company's founder, Belen native Craig Romero, came up with the idea of a "search engine with a conscience" as a way to compete with the perennial all-stars of the search engine world.
"Search engines are the most widely used tool online, but in order to compete with the bigger companies like Yahoo and Google, I had to come up with something completely different," Romero explains. "I figured out generating money for organizations was a way I could do it."
To date, Search Engine Corp operates three search engines and is in development with four more, each supporting a separate charity, ranging from environmental organizations to schools in Jamaica to veterans’ hospitals. Search Engine Corp's sites are generating close to half a million page views (or hits) a month and, in the next 90 days or so, Romero hopes to bring that number up to an even million.
Although it's a for-profit business, Search Engine Corp gives half of the ad revenues generated from its sites to its nonprofit and for-profit business partners. By the end of next year, Romero plans to have generated more than $1 million for good causes.
"It's a simple change from using your normal search engine to switching over to one of ours,” says Romero. “You'll still be able to search the Web as you normally would, but by using one of our engines, you'll be generating revenue for philanthropic organizations without pulling out your wallet."
Romero says he knew even the most kind-hearted individuals wouldn't waste their time using an ineffective search engine, so he designed his sites with first-class search technology. "In order to compete, our sites had to be on par with those larger engines," Romero says. "Through research and development we've utilized our technology to the fullest extent to make sure the search results displayed are relevant to the user."
Belen might not be known as a fertile breeding ground for technological pioneers, but Romero, who graduated from Belen High School, says a small-town upbringing gave him advantages that helped him succeed in business. "Coming from Belen allowed me to see the people side of the business world," he says. "Everybody knows everybody in Belen, and I learned how to form close relationships, which are the same types of partnerships that have helped me create the company I have today."
Those relationships will continue to form as Romero's company, which still maintains a relatively small workforce of eight employees, steadily grows, potentially reshaping the concept of search engines along the way.
Romero’s latest venture is a joint project with a Chicago-based development company that could make search engine websites more interactive than ever. Picture this: While visiting basketball star Steve Nash's search engine website dedicated to funding hospitals in Latin America, you scroll over a link to a website for basketball sneakers. Just as you're about to click on the link, Nash himself appears on your screen, giving you details about the site that's struck your mouse's fancy. Therein lies the basic premise of Search Engine Corp's latest project, a way for individuals, especially celebrities, to utilize their star power to generate funds for their favorite causes without having their fans spend a penny.
Only time will tell if Romero's idea becomes a reality, but he asserts these types of sites should be off the ground as early as the beginning of next year.